Duty Of Care: Reinvent Employees’ Experiences Ahead Of Their Expectations 

It is imperative for an organisation to embrace its duty of care responsibilities towards its employees.

Employees are an organisation’s greatest assets. An organisation can progress in the right direction only when its employees feel motivated and function at the peak of their abilities. This motivation often emerges in the highest degree when people know that their organisation cares about them. Hence, it is imperative for an organisation to embrace its duty of care responsibilities towards its employees and ensure appropriate policies around their safety are put into effect.

According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), India is set to be the fastest-growing market for business travel over the next 5 years with an average growth rate of 11.3 per cent. But as business travel becomes more common, it’s crucial that their organisations also know how to keep them safe and informed, especially during emergencies such as natural disasters, unexpected climatic conditions and political or civil upheavals.

Here are a few ways for organisations to step up their duty of care for their employees when they are travelling for business purposes:

Create and practice a master plan

To deal with unexpected incidents, organisations need to draw up a master action plan for both in-office employees and travellers. Business managers must determine how they will communicate with employees during an emergency, the frequency of communications and the triggering factors. In addition, the plans should be practised through drills or scenarios and should be continually reviewed, revised and improved.

When an incident occurs for one of the travelling employees, the company has to react rapidly. As such, it is necessary to have an established crisis management team to agree on the proper protocol for the key departments involved in the event of an emergency impacting employees. This team should pull in internal stakeholders that have well-defined roles and responsibilities, such as travel management, security, risk, HR and legal. Additionally, it is important to identify any external stakeholders that should be involved, such as the travel management company and risk management provider.

Employees are already making business travel decisions based on safety concerns. A recent study commissioned by SAP Concur1 found that personal safety stood out as a key concern for business travellers with nearly 28 per cent of the Indian travellers prioritizing safety. For both employees commuting to the office and travelling across the globe, clear emergency contact information should be developed to be used in case of a disaster or incident. For employees travelling at night within the city, companies should provide guards in cabs. In the event an incident impacts an office location, it’s useful to employ two-way messaging tools that can automate incident notifications so that employees can get the information they need when they need it.

Stay in constant contact

To effectively fulfil the duty of care for travelling employees, an organisation needs to be able to pinpoint their employee’s locations anywhere in the world at any time, predicting the risks in those locations, and initiating contact with staff to render immediate assistance when the need arises. This can be done with a good employee risk management and safety communication solution.

Most business travellers find comfort in feeling that they’re continuously supported on the road. Almost all (98%) of Indian business travellers polled in a recent SAP Concur study said they have shared their location while travelling for safety, for example, to let emergency contacts know where they are.

In times of emergency, the ability to keep immediate tabs on employees is particularly important because, with a fast-evolving situation, they may unexpectedly be diverted from their planned route or worse, stranded at unknown locations in their destination countries. During the devastating Kerala floods in 2018, plus codes (longitude and latitude based location codes to identify any area on Earth) helped many people in sharing their location even when internet services were not available.

If a firm has many employees, a global health, security and travel assistance services provider can be hired. These services firms typically provide medical support and other services like evacuations when employees travel outside their host country. This support will be vital should the internal security department or travel manager become overwhelmed during an event.

Circumstances may evolve to a point when it becomes necessary to restrict travel. In such a scenario, the corporate travel system must allow for quick policy updates. The system must also give HR and the management clear visibility of the state of travel across the employee population, and have automated enforcement capabilities to prevent trips to high-risk places or rogue travel by an employee. 

For employees on the road, a clear policy should be developed that provides guidance on safety and security. Company expectations and useful pointers about safe travel should be shared with the entire staff. 

There are mobile apps that can help in pushing out pre-trip advisories and/or country reports for employees to review for an understanding of recent incidents or events that may impact their trip. These reports can provide good insight into the political, social, and financial stability of the country before the visit.

Set up a productive telecommuting system

Crises may evolve to a stage where your employees need to work from home for an extended period. 

When that happens, there are a few things that can ensure continued productivity − creating a comprehensive productivity plan; setting-up communication channels; scheduling regular check-ins; and providing essential infrastructure to facilitate working from home. For instance, when air pollution became severe in Delhi during November 2019, corporates facilitated work from home as well as flexible timings to help employees stay safe. 

Such infrastructure will include a connection to the phone and Internet. Most homes have broadband and phone access but if these services are not proactively paid for by the employer, staff may not use them to the extent needed for productive work. There are expense management technologies today that free off-site employees from the encumbrances of photocopying or submitting telecommunication bills and other paper receipts – companies should take advantage of them. 

Smart solutions to enhance employee experience are vital – if communication and collaboration don’t happen when they need to, productivity or worse, business outcomes, will be compromised.

Employees are the lifelines of every business. Providing a sense of security and reducing stress during business travel can help employees focus on the more important tasks and increase productivity levels. Prioritizing duty of care and keeping a well-constructed crisis response plan handy can go a long way to ensure the organisation keeps their travellers safe.


Around The World